CLAYTON — The Cleveland wrestling team renewed acquaintances when the Rams played host to perennial power Pikeville C.B. Aycock in an important, albeit, early contest to open up its Eastern Carolina 3A Conference campaign.
The Rams, defending regular-season conference champions, passed its first test and made an early statement in this year’s conference race with a 41-36 triumph over the Golden Falcons.
“It’s always hard to wrestle the best team first and they’ve been the class of the conference long before we were even a school,” Cleveland coach Scott Riley said of the Golden Falcons, who took home the conference tournament championship last season. “We’ve tried to set our program with them being the standard to reach and to beat them is a big thing for our kids.”
Despite mirroring each other in many ways including sharing similar colors on their uniforms, sharing conference titles a year ago and having similar goals for this season, it was the differences between the teams that ultimately determined how the match was won
With C.B. Aycock holding the advantage in the lower classes and Cleveland possessing the decided edge in the upper weight divisions, Riley knew pins would be needed.
Derrick Applewhite, Chanse Wallace and Jacob Pickering came through with pins for the Rams when they absolutely needed them at 126 pounds, 170 and 195 to push the Rams out in front 35-15 after nine matches.
“We’re pretty strong in our upper weights and they’re pretty strong in their lower weights and we knew how that was going to pan out,” Riley said. “So we knew we needed pins and not just victories and they came through for us.”
The points were huge for the Rams (5-3) because, as expected, the Golden Falcons dominated the lower weight classes with three consecutive pins from Zach Howard (106), Jacob Dickenson (113) and Jordan Bailey (120) to close out the match.
Cleveland’s Dakota Hill cruised in his match earning a 15-0 technical fall over Charlie Mills in the 138-pound weight class.
Javante Moon, Blaine Bryant and Holden Bohannon each were recipients of wins via forfeits at 145, 182 and 220, respectively.
Daniel Romo pinned the Rams’ Josiah Evans in the 132 match and Khaliel Owens took care of business in similar fashion at 160 pounds.
At 152 pounds, the Golden Falcons’ Jaquan Walker earned a hard fought 8-5 victory over Josh Williams and Jorge Flores outlasted the Rams’ Bryer Rogers for a 4-1 decision in the heavyweight division.
For Cleveland to claim both the regular season and tournament titles this season, Riley knows his squad can’t be satisfied with the conference opening win over the Golden Falcons.
“We’ve got to stay focused,” Riley said. “We’ve got to keep getting better if we’re going to beat them in conference tournament.”